ZURICH: Winning the World Cup was not enough to lift Argentina atop the FIFA world rankings with arch-rivals Brazil keeping the No. 1 position, the global governing body announced on Thursday.
Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Croatia but built enough rankings points from results over recent years that feed into FIFA’s calculation.
Argentina climbed one place to second and beaten finalists France also rose one to third, while the tournament’s surprise package Morocco were big movers and are on the verge of cracking the top 10.
Argentina skipper Lionel Messi scored two goals and netted again in the shootout as he led his country to an emotional 4-2 win on penalties over France on Sunday, with the title clash ending 3-3 after 120 minutes of breathtaking action.
A win in normal or extra time would have propelled Argentina to the top of the rankings but they sit second behind five-time world champions Brazil who now have a slender lead in points.
Belgium are still fourth, a fall of two places, despite winning only one game in Qatar and failing to advance from the group stage.
Morocco are 11th after climbing 11 spots, with the Atlas Lions the year’s highest climbers having earned 142 points over the previous 12 months.
They enjoyed a superb run to the semi-finals in Qatar before losing to Croatia in the third-place playoff and are now the highest-ranked team in Africa, ahead of Senegal (19th), Tunisia (30th) and Cameroon, who beat Brazil in the group stage to rise 10 places to be 33rd.
Croatia, the World Cup runners-up in Russia four years ago, are seventh from 12th behind England and the Netherlands.
European champions Italy are at eighth despite failing to qualify for the World Cup.
The United States at 13th are the best of the CONCACAF region teams, rising three places after advancing to the round of 16. Mexico are 15th.
Japan lead the Asian confederation teams at 20th, up four places after defeating Germany and Spain in their group stage, and Australia rise 11 places to No. 27. Both reached the round of 16.
It is Australia’s highest ranking since March 2012 when they were 20th, and best position to end a calendar year since 2011 (23).
“It’s obviously a reflection of what we’ve recently done [at the FIFA World Cup] and I guess a testament to another achievement by the team,” captain Mat Ryan said.
“We can be extremely proud of what we achieved. I don’t think people in Australia quite grasp the scale of what we did in terms of the qualifying process [for the FIFA World Cup] and playing the opposition we did.”
Australia will remain the fourth-highest AFC nation behind Japan, Iran (24) and South Korea (25) but will be well clear of fifth-ranked Saudi Arabia (48).
Qatar dropped 10 places to 60th after losing all three games as the home team at the World Cup.
The rankings will next be updated on April 6.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2022